Touchscreen panic due to indium tin oxide shortage?
    By Hank Campbell | November 3rd 2010 12:29 PM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Want to get an iPad?  You don't need to go buy one today but don't wait until 2020 - with all of the hysteria about Peak Oil no one is thinking about an issue a lot more pressing, namely the shortage of indium tin oxide, which may have only have a 10 year supply remaining.

    Indium is found in zinc deposits and is used to create indium tin oxide which is used to create touchscreens because it is transparent yet conducts electricity.

    Will the free market solve this problem?  Of course it will and carbon nanotubes will most likely be the solution but it may take 8 years even for HTML 5 to be adopted so if researchers want to make CNTs ready for prime-time in touchscreens they'd better get moving.    In the meantime, researchers are working on ways to make the indium tin oxide supply last longer, like by making thinner layers.


    Chinese smelters are creating more Indium from low grade slag ore, world supplies predicted to expand

    One of the biggest problems with the manufacture of FPDs is the fact that "less than 30% of the ITO sputtered onto the glass panels is retained on the glass, the remaining over 70% being left in used ITO targets, grinding sludge, and sputtered over the shields in the sputtering chambers"

    Perhaps they could learn something from the nanocomposite powder coating industry, which apparently has a low percentile loss?

    Aitch :)
    Sure, some of that takes time and some of it necessity.  Water reclamation from the semiconductor fab industry in Taiwan is terrific, for example, because necessity led to efficiency.    If ITO reserves start to drop, the free market will solve this issue by getting more efficient with usage while replacing it with something better.    This is why mandates and subsidies on alternative fuels don't work very well - it's found money for industry which has no motivation to get better but the market will do it once fossil fuels finally hit the tipping point.
    That's a slight set back now, isn't it? Sure there will be a viable alternative within 5 - 10 years, but within 4 or 8 years, when Indium is scarce and the alternative is a year away, touch screen devices are going to be in higher demand than they are now and production is going to have to be increased.

    The end result is higher prices for consumer electronics which, by and large, isn't a great thing for anybody - including defense ministries who are adopting touch screen displays more and more > here in the UK we have just cut military budgeting, how is the military going to deal with this scarcity of a now necessary material?

    Capitalism always works best by incentive (people are not used to prices rising in tech, which is unlike cars or food in that sense) and the incentive will be there to reduce demand for one material, extend the reserves and improve reclamation, all the while creating a new technology to avoid the shortages.

    It is often the case that concern well in advance heads off problems.  Like Y2K, if a bunch of people say "Remember the hysteria about touchscreens?  Well, nothing happened, it was all hype" about touchscreen shortages then industry did its job.
    The market has shown to be ignorant of waste. We have a resource problem which will be exacerbated by the market.

    It is science that creates the knowledge and technology if left to the market creates demand and waste.

    At the rate we are traveling blindly resources are diminishing at a rapididly, and much of the wastage is produced for fashion, entertainment and toys, then discarded.

    The market is ignorant of future needs as seem to be those who rely on the market..

    There are more important uses for Indium than touch screens

    There may well be generations ahead.

    It is science that creates the knowledge and technology if left to the market creates demand and waste.
    So who should the creation of new ideas and technology be left to?
    Hmm. My reply has been posted then edited seems. No offense was intended and editing certainly won't change what lies ahead. Better to open minds than to just conform to popular market edict which are not based on any planned intelligent desirable outcomes.
    There is nothing to hide. except ignorance.